Thursday, April 11, 2013
contemplation upon flowers and orchids (poetry essay)
From the prescribed list of poems you have studied, choose TWO in which the speaker shows
admiration for something.
a) Briefly explain what the speaker admires in each poem.
b) Compare the ways in which the speakers respond to the situations they face.
c) Identify and discuss an effective device used by each poet in presenting the theme of
1. Essay by : Jordon Hayles
4 Pool 4 English B
Poetry is a way in which a poet can express one’s thoughts in many different ways, and one way
a poet can express themselves is showing admiration. Admiration is a feeling one gets when they admire
something. Admiration, as defined by Google, is the object of respect and of warm approval. In the
book, The World Of Poetry admiration is a theme shown in some poems, two of which are ‘A
Contemplation Upon Flowers’ and ‘Orchids’. ‘A Contemplation Upon Flowers’, written by Henry King,
and ‘Orchids’, written by Hazel Simmonds-McDonalds, are both about flowers, and one common theme
shown in both is admiration.
The poem ‘A Contemplation Upon Flowers’ is about exactly what the title suggests. The poem is
giving us the thoughts the writer thinks while observing some flowers, and we can see the comparison
of the flowers to many things, mostly to that of the flower’s nature versus that of the nature of humans.
In ‘A Contemplation Upon Flowers’, the speaker shows admiration to many qualities the flowers display
all throughout the poem. In stanza 1, the poet expresses his admiration to the flowers for the way they
are humble and not proud. He admires the fact that, even though the flowers are made of immense
beauty, they still know that they are all equal, and that they will soon die and go back into the earth,
where it, and all the other flowers have come from. The writer, in stanza 2, starts to compare the flower
to that of his nature, and to a greater extent, to the nature of all humans. It speaks on the way that
flowers gracefully accept the fact that their time is done, that while they have only certain times or
seasons where they can survive, especially spring, the human race on the other hand, want it to be their
favourable season year round, and the proof in that can be easily seen with all the different medicines,
health devices and whatever else may increase the chances of staying alive. And finally, in stanza 3, the
poet expounds on the fascination and admiration with the flowers acceptance of death, and, asks them
to teach him how to, instead of seeing death and being afraid, how to accept it, and also admires the
fact that, not only do they embrace death, but they complement it, as they are very much often used at
a funerals to lighten and add cheer to the air. Also the writer admires that, even after death, flowers
can be used to sweeten the air, as seen with perfumes.
The title of the poem ‘Orchids’ also gives the reader a brief look as to what the poem is about,
and also that it focuses on flowers. The poem shows us that, at first, the speaker did not appreciate the
gift of the purple orchids, as she was contemplating throwing them away; also, it tells us, the reader,
that the poet was so unimpressed with the flowers that she tried killing them by over-watering them
and then later by neglecting and starving them, but with all this ill treatment the flowers received, they
still continued to grow and they continued to flourish, and it is at this point the poet came to a
revelation that their ‘purple hearts’ and their durability were characters in which she admired. She also
admired how resilient the flowers were, how they could still grow in such harsh and abusive conditions.
The poem ‘A Contemplation Upon Flowers’ focuses mainly on death, and it can be seen that two
stages of the human life is shown, birth for the first half of stanza 1, and death for the second half of
stanza 1, and also in stanzas 2 and 3. The situation that the persona faces in this poem is fear and un-
acceptance of death. There are many reasons in which the persona would be contemplating and
associating things as innocent as a flower with death, especially if the persona was an elderly person.
Elderly people usually sit and contemplate, reflect on their life, and usually in a peaceful, quiet and
serene place. This is probably where the connection between death and the flowers came into play. In
this poem, the persona realizes and learns from the flowers, that it is best to obey the timing of Mother
Nature, it is best not to fight death, but to accept it. The persona, in the end, learned that, the way to
deal with death is by letting his life be a legacy, so he can ‘live on’, just as the flowers live on after they
die, as they are used in perfumes and potpourri. The persona says that he wants his life/legacy
to ‘...sweeten and perfume my (his) death’. This can also mean that, on the day of his funeral, he
does not want the kind and sweet things they say about him as they usually do at funerals to be false, but
the truth, so that the last things said about hi may be pleasant. In the poem ‘Orchids’, we are introduced
to the persona just as she is packing for what can be described as another move from the five week life
she had in that house. While the speaker is in the middle of packing she finds a spray of orchids that was
given to her by someone who has a habit of giving people flowers as gifts, just as some people have a
habit of giving cards or poems for gifts, and as a result of this, the persona did not really appreciate the
gift, so the situation in this poem is that, the persona did not like the gift, but not wanting to seem
unappreciative, she did not throw it out, she had instead kept it and instead dealt with the situation by
over-watering them; thinking they would die, but they still grew and blossomed normally, so she tried
another tactic, by starving, but even then, they still began to blossom new blooms. She then came upon
the realization that she was fascinated by their ‘purple hearts’, and so she comes to a resolve by
choosing to keep them, by preserving them in the pages of her memory, so that she can discover
their ‘peculiar poetry’. The way in which the persona in both poems deal with the situation they face, in
a way, is by preserving them, whether their legacy, or the flowers.
The devices of literature can be used to paint a precise and lucid image of exactly how the
persona feels and brings the point across clearly. Each poem being compared uses literary devices to
show how they admire the flowers in the poems presented. The use of simile in line 1, ‘Brave flowers,
that I could gallant it like you,’ is very effective in bringing across the fact that the persona admires the
flowers, and it also basically sets the tone for the rest of the poem. This comparison is comparing the
braveness of the flowers to that of the bashful, reluctant and often feared approach humans have
towards death. This is used to set the tone of the poem, and it can be seen throughout the poem; in
stanza 2 this is clearly seen, especially in lines 7, 8 and 9. In ‘Orchids’, the use of simile is also very
effective in bringing across the admiration shown by the persona in line 14 of the poem, ‘like polished
poems’, as it is comparing the flowers to finished and perfected poems. This is effective because,
people appreciate and admire a fully finished and properly perfected poem, as it lives forever and, and
the persona had said they would ‘press them between pages of memory’, they would, in a sense, be
In conclusion, the theme admiration is found to be interwoven between the lines of the
poems ‘A Contemplation Upon Flowers’, written by Henry King, and ‘Orchids’ written by Hazel Simmons-
McDonald. It can be seen that admiration was given to the flowers for their acceptance of death, and for
their resilience. The speakers deal with the situations they both face commonly, by preservation. And, it
can be seen that the literary devices are very vital parts in bringing across the ways in which admiration
is shown to the flowers.
2. Khalid Sheriff, 4Pool4
In A World of Poetry, many stories share similar themes or situations. Two of particular noteworthiness
are "Orchids" and "A Contemplation Upon Flowers." Both present a situation where a character is
having a monologue about a bundle of flowers they happened to have acquired through a, for the
most part, irrelevant means. What is predominantly the common focus between the two poems is
the significance and meaning assigned to the flowers by the speaker him/herself. This leads to their
admiration for the flowers, and why that is.
As stated before, both poems focus on the admiration of a characteristic of a flower. This,
however, is where the poems begin to differ, as "Orchids" and "A Contemplation Upon Flowers" differ
not in what object they admire, but what it is they admire. In the former, the speaker admires a spray of
orchids. Specifically, the speaker admires the die-hard resilience of the orchids, despite the mistreatment
of the flowers, by the speaker him/herself. This resilience moves the speaker to the point where they
decide to preserve the petals of the Orchids by pressing them between 'pages of memory'. In the latter,
the speaker admires the humble, gallant and altogether well lived life of the flowers they speak of. More
so, they admire their acceptance in the face of death, and their ability to live in knowledge, but not fear
of death. The qualities which are admired by the speakers face amplify this admiration.
The qualities found in these flowers are focused on, due to the situations the speakers find
themselves in. "A Contemplation Upon Flowers" has a speaker who is contemplating the eventuality of
death, as well as how someone is able to live a humble, yet meaningful life. Throughout the poem, the
speaker makes it clear that he/she is fearful of death, so much so that they beg the bouquet of flowers
to teach him/her to be more like them. In "Orchids" the speaker, currently in the process of moving,
happens across a small spray of orchids she had received from someone. The orchids that she comes
across appear to be a metaphor for her appreciation of poetry. With this in mind, the poem
simultaneously focuses on the flowers themselves, as well as the poems and the similarity to each other.
The speaker goes on to discuss the hidden beauty in both, preserving and savouring the petals of the
flower, comparing them to peculiar poetry yet to be appreciated.
The admiration is conveyed through the use of one or more literary device(s). "A Contemplation
Upon Flowers" uses personification as its main literary device. Throughout the poem, the speaker
assigns qualities such as humbleness, mindfulness, and braveness in the face of death. This device is
effective as it provides a means for the poet to have the speaker express themselves, and their feeling
towards death, which is the focus of the poem. The second poem, "Orchids", the poet uses the orchids
as a metaphor for poems. This usage is effective, as it allows the poet to express his/her opinion on
poetry. This opinion, that some poems, as well as their messages, are under-appreciated, due to the fact
that they have a meaning in their 'peculiar poetry' that has yet to be discovered.
While the poems have their similarities, they also have their differences. These differences are
due to the subject matter the poet chooses to possess. The poems explore interesting concepts found in
flowers, a common element. They choose to explore what qualities the flowers possess, and how these
qualities influence the speaker. Towards the end of each poem, the speaker is changed by the message they interpret from the speaker.